Sierra Leone looks to combat malaria

2010-11-26 21:11

Freetown - Sierra Leone health workers on Friday began a massive campaign to distribute three million mosquito nets in an effort to cut malaria by up to 40 percent in the country of six million people.

"It is the most radical move ever embarked on against the disease in Sierra Leone," Dr Foday Samai, a member of the campaign team, told AFP.

Unicef Immunisation Specialist Nuhu Maksha explained that "every household in the country will receive one to three long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLIN) depending on the size of the family."

Each net costs some six dollars and lasts up to five years.

A 2009 epidemiological report published by the health ministry ranked malaria as the number one cause of outpatient visits to hospitals throughout the country.

It also indicated there was a high resistance among Sierra Leoneans to the malaria drug chloroquine.

According to health ministry statistics, the average Sierra Leonean suffers three to four bouts of malaria per year.

The $20m campaign to distribute mosquito nets has been funded by the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID), the Federation of the International Red Cross, the United Methodist Church and other health partners.

In Bo, the country's second largest city, distribution began early on Friday with housewives opening their doors to the team.

"This is like giving us a Christmas present for our health," said 45-year-old Sarah Daramy who has three children.

"We cannot afford to buy the net as my husband is only a farmer. Now we can sleep in peace."

In Makeni, in the north, 320km from the capital Freetown, the distribution took on a carnival-like atmosphere as local bands and musicians moved around with the team.